by Vic Zast
The thought that horse racing needs to be dragged through the coals again following Saturday’s first race must be rattling about in some people’s minds.
Just when New York Racing Association officials must have been feeling pretty good about how things were going with attendance increases, close finishes and weather forecasts, Saratoga encountered its second public equine mercy killing in a week, this time accompanied by a jockey’s injury that resulted in Jose Espinoza being carted off on a stretcher and ambulance.
CEO Chris Kay must show that he and the franchise refuse to conduct business as usual by calling an investigation into what kind of medications went into Heading to Toga before Saturday’s first race and why his connections risked dropping the stakes-experienced filly into a $20,000 claiming race. Then he needs to keep fingers crossed that bad fortune won’t occur in the same manner again.
Good fortune befell many people on a simply otherwise splendid day. Almost 35,000 racing fans witnessed Big Blue Kitten win the $600,000 Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT) decisively, with the colt’s owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey in Chicago for the Arlington Million (gr. IT) and Secretariat (gr. IT), two additional Grade 1 stakes in which horses they owned triumphed. Rosie Napravnik chose to abandon her base for the $500,000 Secretariat.
Princess of Sylmar, from the King of Prussia Stables, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Javier Castellano, won the 133rd running of the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) in the footsteps of prior three-year-old filly champions such as Questing, Royal Delta and Blind Luck and other Kentucky Oaks winners such as Proud Spell and Silverbulletday.
Princess of Sylvan in Alabama Stakes stretch.
The result was anti-climactic in several ways, including that horse racing fan Deborah White of Gaansevort, NY cashed a complimentary $15,000 wager, courtesy Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson, which paid $.50 on the dollar.
Women also played a supporting role in the second race. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas broke his 2013 Saratoga maiden with a 16-1 maiden named Strong Mandate. It was hard to choose between the picture of Lukas promoting the sport by introducing two boys to its most joyous time or Michele Riggi with a troupe of girls in tutu skirts in the winner’s circle as the more entertaining. Riggi was promoting the National Museum of Dance, which held its gala Saturday evening. Both Lukas and Riggi are their own greatest productions.
Lukas escorting boys from the winner's circle.
Ballet dancers in winner's circle.
A Pletcher by a neck over Pletcher exacta, featuring two of the meet’s three leading riders, occurred in the fourth. You can’t imagine the jubilation that the people involved in the six-year-old gelding Sandyinthesun as it keyed a $705.00 exacta in the eighth that involved almost the entire field. Robbie Davis, a most popular guy on the racecourse, saddled the nose winner.
Trainer Robbie Davis and jockey Junior Alvarado elated after upset victory.
For folks looking for food bargains, a bag of salty Hampton Farms peanuts will satisfy your hunger jones for only $3.50. The peanuts are grown and packaged in North Carolina.
This morning’s Preservation Society walking tour will travel down North Broadway.
Vic Zast has attended the races at Saratoga for 49 straight summers. His father’s father came from Prussia.